This article was originally published in FYI Magazine, the fastest growing home and lifestyle magazine for Jewish women.
It is your job as a parent to teach your children. You teach them how to talk and walk. You teach them how to ride a bicycle. You teach them how to cook. You teach them how to drive. You teach your children how to do all of this and more, so one day they will go off into the world and survive on their own.
But while you do intentionally teach your children numerous skills and lessons as they grow up, much of what your children learn from you is done indirectly by simply observing. From the moment they’re born, your children look to you as their role model. Your actions and behaviors will influence and impact your children’s own actions and behaviors in the present and the future.
That’s why your marriage is so important. Do you want your children to eventually be in a happy and healthy marriage? Then you need to show them what a happy and healthy marriage looks like. Your marriage will lay the groundwork for every interaction and romantic relationship your children have. If you don’t lead by example, they will be more likely to struggle to find happiness with their spouse, and they won’t learn the necessary life lessons to impart to their own children – your future grandchildren!
Here are a few important things your children can learn from your marriage:
Respect. Mutual respect within a marriage is essential. When you treat your spouse with respect, you are considerate and courteous. You value their thoughts and ideas. And you consult with each other when making big decisions because their opinion matters. Couples who lack respect tend to be rude to each other, call one another names, and often avoid or ignore their partner.
When your children see how you and your spouse treat each other with respect, they will expect that same respect in their own lives, whether it’s from their friends, co-workers, or spouse. Not only will they learn what respect looks like, but they will also learn how to be respectful and show their respect for others.
Commitment. Marriage is hard work, but you do it because it’s worth it. While it might be easy to run from difficult or trying times, you don’t because you and your spouse took a vow to be committed to each other and your marriage. You’re in it for the long haul.
Your children will be able to see your commitment to your marriage. Children are naturally perceptive and observant. They can tell when things might be a struggle. But they will be able to see that you and your spouse don’t give up easily. And then they will learn not to give up easily, too.
Apologizing and forgiveness. The power of apologizing and forgiveness are essential lessons every child should learn. We have to be able to say, “I’m sorry,” when we’ve done or said something hurtful. Pride doesn’t win in a marriage and it’s fine to admit you’re wrong. And we have to be able to forgive and move on when someone has hurt us. Without forgiveness, we hold grudges.
By seeing these qualities in your marriage, your children will inherently know that people aren’t perfect and it’s okay to make mistakes. They will know how to apologize when they make their own mistakes, and they will know how to forgive when someone they love and care about makes a mistake.
Affection. When you show affection for your spouse, you’re teaching your children how to show and express their love. Show your children how crazy you are about your spouse. Laugh together. Be light and playful in front of your children. Buy each other something special, and let the children witness the surprise and warmth. Don’t be afraid to show them what positive, happy love looks like. Then they’ll be able to emulate that affection in their own relationships.
The list of what your children can learn from your marriage could go on and on: humility, humor, patience, trust, responsibility, devotion, thoughtfulness, friendship, generosity, and many other important and necessary qualities.
Your marriage is a guide. It is an example of what a strong, successful relationship and marriage looks like. And your children will be thankful that you were able to teach them the lessons that they will carry throughout their own life.
Rooting for you,